Clever Clover stood in the cave holding the book that had cursed his people for so many years. It seemed as though he had won, and hopefully that manipulative imp Bic would be out of his life for good now. Of course he still had to get out of the cave and past the dragon and knight, but hopefully they would still be incapacitated. The princely pony moved cautiously toward the chamber of the fire dragon. The flickering of its tail-flame guided Clever Clover through the darkness.
Within the massive chamber, the dragon still slept. Clever Clover quietly tiptoed past the beast, holding his breath out of fear of waking him. Even though the dragon had not cared about his presence earlier, now it might be upset since the curse had been lifted (hopefully). The beast snorted once, but didn't waken. As he reached the mouth of the cave, the purple pony breathed a sigh of relief, but stifled it for fear of alerting the Green Knight, who was less apathetic than the dragon had been.
When he emerged from the cave, Clever Clover heard the Green Knight's hissing voice. "Scy, scy-ther scy scy." Clever Clover froze in fear. If the Green Knight had recovered, it would be difficult to reach the path leading back to the village. The pony ducked back into the cave and inched forward carefully, watching prudently for the knight. The sound of the knight's mumbling became neither louder or softer. Clever Clover listened, hoping to be able to locate his antagonist by sound. The hissing voice seemed to be coming from the direction of the cliff that led to the path-- and to safety.
The pony prince peeked out of the cave toward the cliff. The Green Knight was there, right where Clever Clover had left him. He lay at the base of the cliff, tossing and turning and lashing out with his blades. The knight was still unconscious, but it seemed he was sword fighting in his sleep. He might be faking it, Clever Clover thought to himself. I'd better be careful. The pony advanced slowly toward the cliff. He searched for a location on the crag that he could scale without getting too near the Green Knight. He found an adequate spot; but, even though the knight showed no sign of noticing, Clever Clover did not relax until he reached the safety of the path.
Once he had passed the challenges, the prince quickly trotted down the trail. The sooner he returned to Malachite Castle and was rid of the cursed book the better. The path seemed longer than it had on the way up. When he finally reached the bottom of the mountain path, Ironwood and the guards were waiting for him.
"Greeting's my prince!" said Ironwood cheerfully. "Congratulations on your triumphant return."
Clever Clover nodded. "Thanks, but how do you know I was triumphant?"
"The pall of doom has lifted, our spirits sore, and you have the book."
"Oh, the book. Did you know about the book?"
Ironwood shrugged. "Not specifically, but many myths speak of such evil books. I simply assumed, when I saw it, that it had been the source of the curse."
"Yeah, that's pretty much the way I figured it," Clever Clover mumbled. "Let's get back to the castle."
The prince and his royal guards marched to the village in high spirits. The guards sang a traditional marching song that echoed off the mountain. As they neared the hamlet, they could hear the sounds of celebration. And when they came into sight of it, they saw the streets full of revelers dancing, singing, eating, and drinking. The villagers flew brightly colored flags and banners. The revelers parted as Clever Clover and the guard approached to let them pass. At the gate to the castle, Enchantment greeted them with a shimmering streak in her main and tail.
"Greetings prince-champion," she said with a bow. "Preparations are already underway for a victory banquet in your honor."
Clever Clover didn't know what to say. "Uh, cool. Listen, I'd like to talk to Raven and Foxglove about this book as soon as possible."
Enchantment nodded. "Of course. I'll let them know; meanwhile, you should return to your room to prepare for the festivities."
* * *
Back in his room, Clever Clover washed up and collapsed onto the bed. "This has been quite a day," he mumbled. There was a knock on the door. "Come in."
The door opened; Enchantment and two maids entered. "Raven and Foxglove are occupied with preparations for the banquet," the young pony explained. "We have come to prepare you for the festivities."
"What sort of preparations do I need?" Clever Clover asked nervously.
"Nothing to worry yourself about. Just leave it to us," said one of the maids. They set about combing and styling Clever Clover's mane and tail. One of the maids produced a can of hair spray and began to disperse a stripe of shimmers in the prince's hair.
"Is that really necessary?" he asked.
"It is an ancient tradition," Enchantment explained.
"We used to use tree sap and metal shavings. Would you rather do it the old way?"
"Hm, I guess the hair spray will do," the purple pony conceded.
Enchantment smiled. "By the way, how do you feel about tattoos?"
"WHAT!" cried the prince in shock.
"Oh, don't worry. Not yet anyway."
* * *
After Enchantment and the maids left, Clever Clover inspected their handiwork in the mirror. "Hm, I hope this stuff washes out," he mumbled. There was another knock on the door.
"You requested an audience?" It was Raven's voice.
"Yeah, come in."
The imposing pony entered the room. "So, that is the book," he said as he stepped toward the table where Clever Clover had set the evil tome. The regent flipped through the brittle yellow pages. The book fell open to the pages that had been showing on the cave. "Hm."
Clever Clover stood on tip-hooves to look over Raven's shoulder. "So, what do you think?"
"This book is powerful evil, but it is harmless now. As long as we keep it contained, it will cause us no harm. This says there should be a thread?"
"Oh, yeah, here it is." The prince handed over the silken thread that had bound the book to the stone altar in the cave. Raven closed the book and tied the thread around it.
"Now I shall put this somewhere safe," said the regent as he turned to leave.
"One more thing, Rave'," Clever Clover said.
Raven looked crossly at the prince. "Yes?"
"Why don't you have the sparklies in your hair?"
"That is reserved for those of royal blood," Raven replied matter of factly and left the prince's chambers.
* * *
The grand banquet hall of Malachite Castle was alive with music and merriment, something Clever Clover sensed it had not seen in quite some time. He was uncomfortable with the idea that the banquet was to honor him as a prince and hero. Standing in the hallway just outside the hall, Clever Clover contemplated sneaking out of the castle and starting out for home.
"Prince, your people await," Foxglove said, startling Clever Clover from his fantasies of flight.
"Alright, alright. I'm just not real comfortable with this prince thing yet."
"Do not worry. With time, you will learn the ways of your position."
With a sigh, the princely purple pony stepped forward into the hall to face his destiny.